Home meetings, Tag Day sales, and a $5 charge for a Fashion Show table of four--these were among the memories of the early days of the Auxiliary of the Little Sisters of the Poor, recalled for members of the organization nearly 20 years ago. They were written at the time by Mrs. Edward (Jean) Kearns, who at 92 was then the Auxiliary’s oldest member. A member since 1927, Mrs. Kearns’ memories also evoked images of a vibrant downtown Paterson, then the social and shopping center for much of northern New Jersey.
Most of the Auxiliary’s events took place in Paterson, including the fund-raising Tag Day sales. As Mrs. Kearns recalled: “When I first joined our organization, our source of money-making consisted of having a Tag Day, which was usually held on a Saturday. We would decorate tags and sell them downtown in Paterson, at Market and Main streets.” Later the Auxiliary turned to small-group bridge parties, held in members’ homes, with donated prizes and donated food for lunch.
Mrs. Kearns also remembered the origins of the Auxiliary’s Fashion Show and Luncheon. “It was decided to have our yearly party at the Woman’s Club in Paterson,” she wrote. “We sold chances at 10 cents each, or three for 25 cents. The chance prizes were donated, table prizes were donated and the piano player did not charge us. The fashion show was presented gratis by different stores and the models were members of the Auxiliary. The cost for one table of four was five dollars. It is my recollection that our profit was approximately $250.”
When the event outgrew the Woman’s Club, the Auxiliary moved it to the Alexander Hamilton Hotel--“which, at the time, was considered elegant,” Mrs. Kearns remembered. Members decorated the hotel’s staircase and ballroom with plants and flowers they had received for Easter, and to provide added revenue the Auxiliary instituted an ad journal. Prizes, as usual, were donated, as was the cost of the luncheon itself. According to Mrs. Kearns, that happened because the hotel manager was the husband of an Auxiliary member. She recalled something else about the shows: “The women’s hats were a great attraction at our yearly party and provided a topic of conversation among women in the greater Paterson area for days to come.”
Some traditions which continue today have long histories. As Mrs. Kearns wrote, “On March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day, we would go to the Home and serve the noonday meal to the Residents. We were often joined by the Bishop and some of the priests of the Diocese of Paterson.” Mrs. Kearns’ informal history of the Auxiliary included other fond memories. There were meetings at a member’s summer home in Allenhurst, with transportation provided by bus, and a 25th Anniversary observance at which members were asked to model their wedding gowns. For that event, one member obtained old photographs of the others, and used them as placecards for the luncheon.
As Mrs. Kearns concluded, “We have come a long way due to the dedication and efforts of our membership. It is my sincere hope that the good work done by the Auxiliary in the past will continue to grow in the future.”